10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast.James 5:10-11a ESV
When we get lost in the suffering instead of God’s promise we show a lack of patience and an increase of selfishness. If we want our faith to truly go the distance, it must transform every square inch of our souls.
29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)Luke 7:29,30 ESV
The message of the gospel can easily stop not far below the surface of our intellect. We might grab on to the hope of forgiveness, the promise of eternal life, or the feel good story of God’s love for us. All of those require only a perfunctory understanding of sin, Jesus, and redemption.
38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.Luke 7:38 ESV
But, when you allow yourself to be swallowed up by the incredible depth of the gospel message, you discover the true beauty of it. Christ’s imputed righteousness, unconditional forgiveness and justification, mercy beyond logic, a God who knows us and chose to sacrifice on our behalf anyway. When that washes over you, you cannot help but respond.
So many people through history have made the mistake of being satisfied with a surface understanding of God’s message. Jonah, pharisees, me.
This week I realized that I have become quite consistent in my daily quiet time. Each morning I listen to numerous chapters in my bible app. I go through one or two lessons in my current devotional book, and even spend other times each day listening to a sermon, reading an article, or studying God’s Word with other family members. And yet, how often does it really sink in?
This may seem unrelated, but bear with me a moment . . . A couple years ago I realized that my marriage lacked a little of the zip that it had once had. I suppose that was understandable after 24 plus years, but I felt a bit of envy when I heard couples in their fourth or fifth decade talking about how they were “more in love now than ever.” I couldn’t really relate. I mean, I love my husband, have loved him for many years. But, could I say I love him more now than before? I wasn’t so sure.
I started reading some marriage books and looking for ways to express my love and try to nurture it so it would bloom a bit more fully. I came across an interesting challenge to kiss your spouse for 15 seconds everyday. After trying it for a while (since I’m such a box-checking kind of gal), I still wasn’t quite getting it, although it did seem like I was on the right path.
Then I changed my goal. Not just a time span, but an experience. I was looking to get lost in that kiss everyday. Game changer! It didn’t happen overnight, but that habit of trying to get lost in my husband’s arms and lips each day (well, most days . . .) brought us closer together and re-lit something that had gotten a little dimmer over the years. Now, at 27 plus years I can definitely say I am more in love with him now than ever before and each year just keeps getting better.
Okay, back to my relationship with God. I realized this week that my relationship with God was getting a little routine. I love Him, of course. Can never deny all that He has done for me, but does it really get to my heart? If I’m honest, most days, no. My quiet time has become just that. Reading, praying through lists, filling out devotionals, box-checking.
This week, I renewed my effort to “get lost” (which might look different for each of us) in worship and God’s Word each day, and God has showed up in a big way. I don’t wrap up my time with Him until I have seen a truth hit close to home, until I have that moment of God’s word pricking my conscience or sparking my response or rousing my heart in worship.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idolsJonah 2:8,9 ESV
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!”
Even in this, we can sometimes not fully get it. Jonah clearly had a moment with God while in the belly of the fish. He poured his heart out and confessed, praised, threw himself on God’s mercy, cried out, prayed, gave thanks, and recognized God as his only hope. God heard his heart, and dumped him back on the beach for a second chance. But the next chapters will show that his heart still lacked God’s vision for Ninevah.
Continually pressing into Him needs to be a lifelong endeavor of every Christian.
Lord God, I don’t want to be a Christian out of habit, I want to follow you passionately all of my days. I want an eye so focused on the eternal hope, that the suffering I experience in this world is irrelevant. Everyday relight my fire for You that I may never stop growing and never stop visibly living for You. In Jesus Name ~Amen